The Springboks’ game management needs to improve ahead of the showdown with the All Blacks in Pretoria, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Michael Cheika loves a good whinge. In the wake of the 23-12 loss to the Springboks in Port Elizabeth, the Wallabies coach bemoaned the referee’s poor management of the lineout and the offside line.
Cheika moaned about the Boks’ rush tactics. He moaned about his players’ poor finishing. He moaned when the travelling Australian reporters asked if a record of two wins in the last 10 Tests was good enough.
He blamed everyone for the state of Australian rugby. Everyone but himself.
It was interesting to observe Cheika and then compare his press conference offerings to those of Rassie Erasmus.
The latter was in no mood to celebrate after a comfortable yet unconvincing win. After listing the Boks’ shortcomings, and there were quite a few, he signed off by saying that it’s the coach who has to put his hand up when a team underperforms.
Perhaps this shows where the two teams are at present. The Wallabies are still on the way down. The Boks, thanks to the coaches’ innovation and the bloodymindedness of the players, are starting to drag themselves up.
They’ve got a long way to go, though. While they have worked hard to revive their physical reputation, and Erasmus has made a point of getting the players into the right mental space this season, they are yet to realise their tactical potential.
Pieter-Steph du Toit was yet another South African who gave an honest assessment of the Boks after the Test against the Wallabies. Du Toit said that the coming clash against the All Blacks would matter a great deal, regardless of the outcome of the game in Buenos Aires and whether the All Blacks had clinched the Rugby Championship title or not.
The All Blacks will be looking for revenge after the Boks beat them in Wellington. The Boks will be aiming for another big scalp that proves they are on the right track.
The good news for the Boks is that flyhalf Handré Pollard appears to have found his mojo as a goal-kicker. The Boks deserved to beat the Wallabies on Saturday, but it may have been a closer contest if Pollard hadn’t kicked three penalties and two conversions.
Erasmus criticised the Boks’ tactical play in the second stanza. He has a point with regard to the game management and how poor kicking and decision-making led to the hosts spending long periods trapped in their own half.
By then, the Bok leadership group had made the call to take all points on offer. In the first half, however, Siya Kolisi turned down several kickable penalties in favour of the lineout drive.
The Wallabies were up to the lineout challenge. They adapted to the referee in terms of how he called this set piece and the breakdown. If the Boks want to improve, they must learn to make adjustments sooner in the contest rather than later.
As Erasmus and Kolisi admitted afterwards, the All Blacks won’t give the Boks as many chances to score next week. The Boks have to be on point with their decision-making, and take every chance that comes their way.
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images